I usually try to keep it quiet, but it was my birthday on the 23rd. Unfortunately I’m not at the age where I celebrate because it’s the beginning of a new year of wonder and expectation. I try some kind of muted celebration (buying a cake) just to advertise to myself the fact that I’m still alive!
This fact was put to the test on the night of the 22nd because around midnight on the M6 in Cheshire I was involved in a car accident. Hitting the inside crash barrier, spinning one hundred and eighty degrees then slamming into the central crash barrier before coming to rest in the fast lane facing oncoming traffic wasn’t the best way to spend my time I’ll admit and the fact that I managed to get out of the car without one single cut, bruise or scratch was probably nothing short of miraculous. That alone should have been cause for celebration I suppose. Just as the willingness of other people to help a stranger was a cause for celebration. At least three cars stopped, their occupants hurrying to see if I was ok, a lorry driver held up traffic until the police arrived and another let me sit in the cab of his vehicle to keep me out of the rain. I mention their acts of selflessness because, to my shame, if I’d been the one who’d seen the accident I’d probably have just driven past. I’m not proud of that but Good Samaritan is not a label I would collect easily.
The shock of crashing was bad enough but one of the Highway Maintenance guys who turned up later provided an even bigger jolt (you know, the ones who cruise up and down motorways and, from a distance look as if they’re driving police cars which is why everyone slows down until they realize its safe to speed up again). As he and I surveyed the smashed portion of the central crash barrier that I’d hit he informed me that I’d be liable to pay for it.
I won’t repeat the exact words I uttered but I discovered that no, he wasn’t having a laugh. It comes off my insurance I realize but that wasn’t the point. Not at that precise moment of time it wasn’t.
“If someone had been dragged out of that wreck half dead would you have been standing there with an invoice?” I asked as politely as I could considering shock was kicking in, it was now almost one in the morning and I was bloody freezing standing in rain that was coming down so hard it would have made Noah a bit apprehensive. How long do the Highways Agency wait until they send a bill to the families of people who’ve died in car accidents I wonder? I know that our motorways have to be maintained and I realize that when they’re damaged they have to be repaired it’s just that I didn’t know until I was involved that the ones who cause the damage are the ones who have to supply the cash for renewal. Only fair I suppose when you look at it in the cold light of day but not when you’re standing on a hard shoulder wrapped in a foil blanket watching the remains of your car being loaded onto a flat bed truck ready for imminent disposal. It was like watching a sick animal being dragged off to the vet. I wondered if I should administer some kind of last rites but decided against it.
The question of how you reach home after having lost your vehicle was also something I’d never thought about until that night but it was a subject I also had to contemplate after being dropped off in the car park of Knutsford services around two in the morning. But that’s another story.
I just hope next years birthday is less eventful.